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The City Journals

Chinese art, dumplings bring in Year of the Pig at Midvale Middle

Apr 15, 2019 10:35AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Midvale Middle eighth-grader Morgan Webster had never tasted a Chinese dumpling before, but on Chinese New Year, he wasn’t just sampling it, he was making it.

“I’m expecting it to taste good from what my classmates told me,” he said as he learned to pinch the dough closed.

Classmate Brian Yu, who has made dumplings with his family, reminded Morgan to add a touch of water to help the dough stick closed.

“Dumplings are a sign of wealth, of a good life and fortune,” Brian said during the afterschool activity.

Chinese teacher Karma Lambert said the meaning came about from the shape of Chinese dumplings being similar to ancient gold or silver ingots, which symbolize wealth.

“Traditionally, families get together to make dumplings on New Year,” she said, adding that at one time, those who found coins hidden in the dumplings were likely to have good fortune. “There’s also the story of the more you eat, the more prosperous you’ll be. But we’re limiting it to three. It’s just a fun, traditional way for our students to learn the culture together.”

While Lambert had prepared the stuffing — cabbage, pork, green onions, soy sauce, ginger, cornstarch and salt — students pinched them closed in Gyoza wrappers before boiling them three times and cooling it between each time.

“We want them cooked through, but not falling apart,” she instructed the students.

Lambert had learned to make dumplings when she was one of 15 teachers across the United States to participate in a $10,000 U.S. Department of State fellowship and learn more about the language and culture in Changchan, China for six weeks in 2012.

Teaching students about dumplings was one of several ways Midvale Middle students enrolled in Chinese learned about the holiday. They also made skylines out of Chinese newspapers complete with red lanterns floating across the top and Chinese characters glued to the artwork with blessings for a prosperous new year. 

Chinese 2 students also were to visit a Chinese restaurant to order and speak in Mandarin.

“It’s a good positive culture experience,” Lambert said. “I want them to be comfortable so if they were to go to China, they wouldn’t be afraid to order food. Learning a language is a risk-taking experience, but we are in a comfortable environment. It’s worth the benefit to learn a second language and having an understanding of the culture.”